Bali Poker: Key Players in Climate-Change Game

NUSA DUA ~ A key UN conference gathering some 190 countries takes place here from December 3-14, with the aim of setting a strategy for negotiations to beef up action against climate change post-2012.

Here is a resume of how the main players stand:



World’s most prolific burner of fossil fuels, accounting by itself for nearly a quarter of global greenhouse-gas pollution (although by some estimates China has now eclipsed it). Rejects Kyoto Protocol as too costly for the US economy and unfair as its emissions caps do not concern emerging giants, especially China.


Has weak hand. President George W. Bush has little credibility abroad in the climate arena and is under intensifying pressure at home. Last Saturday he lost his last anti-Kyoto ally after Australian Prime Minister John Howard was voted out of office.

Bush’s voluntary approach on tackling greenhouse gases has been rejected by other countries and they will pay close interest to an “alternative” US delegation at Bali of Congressmen and VIPs who want to ditch Bush’s policies after he leaves office in January 2009.



Kyoto’s champion. The European Union saved the Protocol from oblivion after Bush’s walkout in 2001. But this act of faith has not been evenly matched by progress on the ground. Several EU economies are far short of meeting their 2012 targets and Europe badly fumbled the launch of its market in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.


Wants to halve global emissions by 2050 compared with 1990 levels. Has announced a unilateral cut in EU emissions of 20 percent by 2020 compared with 1990 levels, deepened to 30 percent if other industrialised countries play ball. This offer has met with a telling silence from Japan, Canada and other advanced economies, reflecting their concerns about the cost of meeting Kyoto targets.

Seeking to keep developing countries onside, the EU says it expects that only rich countries will have to make binding emissions cuts in the post-2012 commitment phase. Its two other negotiating carrots for developing countries – funds to help vulnerable economies cope with climate change and helping to transfer clean technology to them – are either weak or unclear.




A diverse bloc ranging from the world’s poorest countries to China and India, which will dominate the world’s carbon problem within a matter of years.


Resolutely opposed to being included in binding emissions targets. They argue that the historical blame for global warming lies with industrialised nations and mandatory curbs will hurt their own rise out of poverty.

On the other hand, awareness of global warming is rising fast in these countries. China is taking the lead in a national plan to monitor emissions, encourage the switch to cleaner renewables and boost public consciousness of the problem.

Developing countries look to the post-2012 Kyoto deal to do more to transfer clean technology to their economies and deliver financial support to help them cope with the impacts of climate change. As a quid pro quo, they could be coaxed into a deal that sets down measures to reduce emissions from high-polluting sectors such as coal, steel and cement.




Factfile on UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Goal of Bali talks


The December 3-14 conference of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is tasked with setting down a “roadmap” for negotiating a new deal on tackling global warming.

Likely to unfold over the next two years, these talks will focus on action beyond 2012, when current commitments expire under the UNFCCC’s Kyoto Protocol.

Here is a factfile on the two treaties and what is at stake in Bali:



The offshoot of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the UNFCCC provides a general arena for tackling climate change. So far, it has been ratified by 192 countries.

Governments swap information on greenhouse-gas emissions, on national policies and on “best practices” for combatting global warming. They also cooperate in helping countries adapt to climate impacts.



A UNFCCC treaty that sets down specific action for targeting greenhouse-gas emissions. It was signed as a “framework” accord in 1997; its rulebook was completed in 2001; it took effect on February 16 2005.

Under its present roster of pledges, Kyoto sets down legally-binding commitments for industrialised economies that have ratified it (the so-called Annex 1 countries) to limit or reduce emissions of six categories of greenhouse gases by a 2008-2012 timeframe compared to a benchmark of 1990.

To ease the cost of achieving this they can use a carbon market to trade in emissions or invest in cleaner-energy projects in former Soviet economies or developing economies to gain “carbon credits” that they can offset against their quota.

Poorer countries do not having binding emissions targets. They make a general pledge to avoid pollution.

So far, 172 countries plus the European Community (EC) have ratified Kyoto. Thirty-six of them, plus the European Union as a party in its own right, come under the provisions of Annex 1. Together, they account for 61.6 percent of emissions by industrialised countries, but 30 percent of the global total, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).



In its present shape, Kyoto will not make any headway against carbon emissions.

If all the Annex 1 countries meet their targets, they will reduce their own emissions by around 1-2 percent, compared with an original goal of at least five percent.

By comparison, global emissions have risen by at least a quarter since 1990, according to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

Some countries (the EU, Canada and Japan) are clamoring for this annual pollution to be halved by 2050 in order to limit the potential damage to Earth’s climate system.

The main cause of the problem is a surge in pollution in the United States and China.

Together, these two economies account for roughly half of all global emissions, yet neither has a binding target to limit them. The United States refused to ratify Kyoto in 2001, and China, as a developing country, is not a party to the Annex 1 constraints.

So the task of the Bali meeting is to set down a negotiating strategy that will:

– deepen emissions cuts by Annex 1 countries beyond 2012;

– set down incentives for and stronger commitments from emerging giants;

– coax the United States to do more to cut its own pollution and those of others.

– beef up resources to help poorer countries, which are the most vulnerable to climate change, adapt to the threat.

Experts say the pact will have to be wrapped up at a conference in Copenhagen in 2009 so that it can be ratified in time to take effect from the end of 2012, after Kyoto’s present commitment period expires.

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